Knowing that there are
people who love my
work on the other
side of the globe
made me incredibly
Stella Chen Yui is an illustrator from Taiwan, currently living in Taichung and using the pen name of Stellarism. She is completely self-taught and is majoring in Japanese language this year. Of course, you may have already seen Stella’s artworks around if you are a fan of anime and manga since she’s one of the more popular artists in that Internet community. However, she also does her best to try her hand at different projects. We asked her about the work she did for Marco Kalantari’s short film toward the second half of the interview, and she told us a little bit about how different it was to working for Taiwanese clients. Of course, we also talked about her journey so far and her plans for the future.
Stella often works on games as a character designer and runs an online course where she teaches students digital painting. She chose to teach digital painting because she noticed that there was little to no opportunity to learn it in Taiwan back when she was just starting out. And having to self-teach digital painting without the proper guidance can be really difficult for a rookie artist – “This is why I wanted to make a digital painting course for students who want to learn as much as I did.” Stella says. The online course has been wildly successful up until this point, and Stella shared some of her ideas on how to make the course even better for her students!
Please tell us about yourself. What sparked your interest in digital art?
I started learning digital art four years ago. I would often work with traditional art before that, spending my time working on all kinds of sketches and watercolor paintings. I experimented with a lot of other mediums too, but that was just out of interest at first (every aspiring artist does it). I must say that practicing the skills you learn by doing traditional art serves as an important springboard for when you want to start learning digital painting. I would draw traditionally for many years before I gained the confidence to start on my first digital painting. And I only saw it as another medium to try out as a means of improving my art.
In comparison to traditional art, digital art is a lot easier to manipulate whilst you’re painting. Next, digital painting is a lot better for when you’re working on a game or other things like that. However, this doesn’t guarantee that you will be amazing if you start painting digitally. The whole thing is only a tool, or a way in which you can present your art. The actual quality of your artworks is dependent on the amount of effort you’ve put into learning new skills.
I am not a fan of staying in my comfort-zone. I want to try all sorts of styles. There are things like hyper-realistic drawings and Japanese comics – they all look so interesting. I’d love to try animation too! I think that it’s way better if you get inspired by artists from all over the world, so please don’t limit yourself and try your hand at everything.
Are you formally trained or self-taught?
I am actually self-taught. I don’t have a lot of time for my art because of my studies, but that actually makes me cherish every minute I get to spend working on my artworks.
Was working on The Shaman with Director Marco Kalantari any different from the work you do for local companies in Taiwan?
Well, it was a new challenge for me, that’s for sure. I’ve never worked in the film industry before so doing art for Marco’s short was a great experience.
I spent a month or so working on sketches for the cyborg suit. I was having to come up with all kinds of designs and it was honestly nothing like the things I usually do. Whenever I draw a comic, I always do all of it by hand, but I used digital painting to add some textures this time so it was a new workflow for me.
Working together with Marco is great because he respects my profession and takes it into consideration. This is very different from what you see here in Taiwan. I think that discussing how we’ll do these kinds things makes working a lot better, and I can say that I’ve learnt a lot from him.
You have a lot of followers who engage with your posts on Facebook etc. There are many artists who try to grow their fan base using social media but it doesn’t work anywhere near as well. What’s the big secret?
Artists need to focus on bettering their artworks wholeheartedly. You shouldn’t waste time coming up with ways of promoting yourself online because the quality of your art is so much more important. I actually have a friend who helps me out by doing all of the promotion for me, and I really appreciate this. It saves me time and I get to make my work even better!
All that aside, sharing your experience selflessly is one of the most important things when it comes to gaining a following. There are some artists who might think something like: “Why should I share my knowledge with others?” And if you’re that person, then I’d like you to know that art is not a competition. If you share your process on social media or live-stream it, you are not only helping those who want to learn, but also those who want to know more about how this kind of art is made. Stanley Lau (an artist I look up to) has the same idea. The art community is there for people to learn from one another, it’s not a competition.
Tell us a little bit about your online course. Are your students enjoying it?
My online course was definitely something new for me. The course is on digital painting. I’ve been painting digitally since 2011, and there were barely any courses teaching digital painting to beginners in Taiwan back then. I could only find resources for learning about digital painting in Japanese tutorial books or by looking around on the Internet. This is why I wanted to make a digital painting course for students who want to learn as much as I did.
In the beginning, I was trying to teach in a classroom environment, but this has its limits because of the time and the location. The only way to resolve this problem would be to deliver the course online, and that’s what I chose to do in the end. There are videos demonstrating certain techniques, and the students can learn it at home, watching the videos whenever they like. I think that it’s a really good way for the students who were busy with work or unable to commute. And I can actually do it for a lower tuition fee which is awesome!
I teach students how to do illustrations in the manga style. It’s the most popular style here in Taiwan, and I always demonstrate how to draw from start to finish, using simple explanations to guide the student. The students can easily finish their own artworks with the skills they learn here. I feel that learning with a sense of accomplishment is also a very important thing when you want to continue moving forward.
I am planning to do some new painting courses with other styles too, such as animation, character design or even realistic portraits. All of these might be worth trying.
Artwork for Marco Kalantari’s short film
Any advice you’ve got for people who’re just starting out and want to work in a style like yours?
I can do various styles, but I use the manga style the most in my work. I think that trying out various styles is good for an artist. You shouldn’t have to limit yourself to a single one.
I saw your cosplay of Rem. That was awesome! I take it you’re a big fan of anime. Tell us about your favorite anime and why you liked it so much.
I think that most people start learning digital painting because they want to create artwork of the characters that they love. I love watching anime to study different character expressions and storyboards. I remember the first anime I watched was Naruto when I was fifteen, and I started drawing because of it so it really means a lot to me.
What’s next for Stella Chen Yui?
I’m planning on bringing my art to different countries around the world so that more people can see them. I’ve been to the FACTS Convention in Belgium, and the experience was so impressive. Knowing that there are people who love my work on the other side of the globe made me incredibly happy. Also, it’s a good opportunity to meet more and more great artists. I will always remember how I met Loish in Belgium, and the great chat that we had. She’s awesome!
By Vox Groovy staff writer;
Upper left image: photograph of the artist;
All images used with permission by the artist.
© Stella Chen Yui or their respective copyright holder.
Publishing rights for this article have been synchronized with Momenta.
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